Buddhist and Religious Threats of Hell as Social Control

A small vignette that I wrote on facebook a few years ago, reflecting on the unethical use of the doctrine of spiritual punishments, “bad karma” and playing on our inherent fear of the unknown in the afterlife as a method of enabling abuse, exploitation, social control and silencing.

Retired priest: ‘Hell’ was invented by the church to control people with fear

Repost & Re-edited-

Concerns about religious use of “magical thinking and fear of hell or spiritual punishment” as a time tested way to exploit people and children-

“What happens if anything, in any afterlife has not been empirically, indisputably proven by any evidenced based method in any of our great world religions, it’s still very much on the level of faith and culture. If we are talking about the 6 realms as “states of mind” pertaining to this life, well we could indeed say that some people truly suffer and that could be akin, at times to a mind-made hell, but this does not equate in any way, to proof of transmigration. In fact, in contrast, a basic tenet of all Buddhist schools clearly proclaims “no-self.” Who or what then exists to transmigrate anywhere? I was afraid of all of this and asked my teacher directly and he said, “there is no punisher, no crime and no one to punish.”

Anyone, even if they seem accomplished spiritually, even my honored teachers, who say they “know” I find dubious, they most likely “know” doctrine that was imparted to them. What I do know, is that even if there is hell (or in Tibetan Buddhism we have 18 hells!) is that people live very, very afraid of themselves and a notion of eternal punishment and their “spiritual” commitments, that for example lead us to offer giant amounts of money or do training “levels” have not mutually consenting affairs with their clergy or teachers or work as monks or administratively for an entire life, against their will. The threat of hell/ mystical moral punishment creates indentured servitude of vulnerable people and children that do get exploited and is not enlightened nor empowering.

People then feel owned by a teacher, leader or organization and are threatened with damnation if they leave of speak out, so we are sworn to silence and secrecy. My heart just can’t bear to see this construct even one more day, and I will call out each and every instance of religious exploitation if it comes into my purview, especially against children and especially in these same sex monasteries and I urge all friends to do the same.

Damnation threatening is in itself, a *spiritual crime* and egregious and damages people and children in a very deep way, since they are purporting something that is indisputable. It preys on our deepest guilt, fears and longing to “know” what this life means, and many religions have used this tool since time immemorial. Clergy often believe these stories and traditions and social control methods as they themselves were often born into archaic religious doctrine, so I believe we need to help each other to co- wake up through raw, frank dialogue and confrontation now, with the hope of evolution.

Even if there exists some moral reward or punishment in some afterlife, however implausible, to proclaim it as truth and pontificate it can only serve to frighten people, and is the foundation of most deep religious trauma. If anyone uses the notion of hell or doctrine to silence women or men, shun others, hurt, harm, molest small children, take children away from their parents at 6, exploit or own someone, we must wake up and stop this. I was told on many accounts that children in monasteries are threatened with hell if they run away or disclose abuse. Dear friends, we have to help them, may it be someday very soon. Please work with this movement with exertion, to help in this transformation, for the future and protection of the ethical and profound Dharma, which in its purity, does not ever harm others in its name.

“When I turn my gaze toward the sky and the band of sparkling stars in our galaxy, and back down to our living ground, I see nothing but the magic of creation. I see us as being a part of the reverberating matrix of the appearance of coming and goings, and inextricably part of the creative process of the light of phenomena. The world, the universe that I can see with my eyes and heart is warm, good, bright and alive and densely packed with compassion. There is no ultimate stain, why then do we behave as if there is?”

“I see nothing to fear in inner space.”

Yeshe Tsogyal

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